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English Senior Seminar

PrerequisitesSenior Seminar Papers / Guides and Checklists / Sample Titles / Senior Seminar Portfolios 

Goals and Objectives

  • According to the USC Upstate General Education Competencies for Senior Seminars, all graduates should demonstrate an in-depth understanding of their major discipline, including an exploration of salient ethical issues raised by the relevant discipline(s).
     /uploadedImages/academics/arts_sciences/Language_and_Literature/Lucy and tara at graduation.jpg 
  • As the capstone course for the English major, English 490 aims to professionalize students as scholars and experts in English studies. Throughout the course students practice: 
    • the integration of knowledge
    • the exploration of ethical issues
    • the application of the skills of research, analysis and writing about literature at an advanced level.
  • Completion of an academic portfolio, self-directed research and writing presentation and formal oral presentation are required.


  • Senior standing in credit hours (90 or more hours)
  • ENGL 101/102
  • SPCH 201
  • ENGL 300
  • One of the three-credit theory courses: ENGL 483, ENGL 459 or FILM 482
  • 12 credit hours (four courses) of ENGL or FILM courses numbered 300 or above

The Senior Seminar Capstone Paper

  • Students will work with faculty mentors and readers to develop and complete the Senior Seminar Capstone Paper.
  • Students should complete a Student-Reader Contract early in the semester to establish their commitment to working with an individual faculty member. Students should meet with readers at least four times by the withdrawal deadline and at least seven times over the course of the semester.
  • The Harvard University Committee on degrees in history and literature have published A Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in History and Literature (available online). This guide offers a helpful outline of the process for developing a senior seminar project.

 Guides and Checklists

Sample Senior Seminar Paper Titles

  • "Liberty’s Plains: Labor, Self-Sufficiency and the Writings of Frances Harper" by Kolesia Richardson
  • "Shattering Green See-Glass: Killing the Fairy Tale Princess in Young Adult Literature" by Emily Kudeviz (currently in graduate school in South Carolina)
  • "Educating Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice" by Holly Harper
  • "Playing God: World Making Words" by Sharon Kelley (published in USC Upstate's ELF)
  • "Stephen King: The Wordslinger and the Writer He Ate" by David Pruitt
  • "Face Time with Facebook: Teaching Adolescent Digital Literacy" by D. J. Booker
  • "Intelligent Idiots and Paralyzed Pedestrians: The Celluloid Similacrum and Disability as Performacne in The Idiots and Quid Pro Quo" by Jason Funderburk
  • "The Abject, the Sacred and White Masculinity in Chuck Palahniuk's Choke" by John Crocker (currently in graduate school in South Carolina)
  • "Distinguishing Identities: Reexamining the Identity of Equiano's Interesting Narrative and Its Place within the High School Classroom" by Ashley Godwin (now a teacher at Boiling Springs Junior High)
  • "Narrative Beginnings,Talk Story and Oral Storytelling in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club" by Annie White
  • "The Historical Now: Forrest Gump and the 'Parahistorical' Narrative" by Andy Lopez
  • "'The great work of preserving': Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and the Women Who 'pickle history'" by Ashley Crider (MA Clemson, now teaching at a college in the Columbia area)
  • "Have Wand, Will Unravel: Blended Gender Roles in Harry Potter" by Erika McBeth (winner of the 12th Annual Hub City Creative Writing Prize)
  • "From Derbyshire to Amritsar: Jane Austen's Arranged Marriage to Bollywood" by Bennett Marshall (currently in grad school in Kentucky)
  • "Phallic Phobias: The Representation of the Body in The Dreamers" by Rachel McAllister (MA Clemson)

The Senior Seminar Portfolio (Senior Seminar Portfolio Checklist): Students who complete the English Senior Seminar will demonstrate their achievement in English studies through a Senior Seminar Portfolio. Students are strongly encouraged to maintain ongoing electronic and paper portfolios of work in the English major throughout their undergraduate careers. See the Senior Seminar Portfolio Checklist for more details. The Senior Seminar Portfolio will include the following:

  • a copy of an essay from one of the core courses in major (ENGL 279, 280, 289, 290, 300 or 301). Education majors should select an essay from ENGL 300. /uploadedImages/academics/arts_sciences/Language_and_Literature/ashleycrider.jpg 
  • a copy of creative writing project, internship project or written project from a course outside the major
  • a copy of the Senior Seminar Capstone Paper
  • a three to five page Reflection Essay, in which the student reflects on the program of study in English courses. Be sure to answer the following question: How well have the courses in English at USC Upstate prepared you to apply skills in analysis, research, critical thinking and writing? After reviewing your work in the English program, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in the following four areas:
    1. Disciplinary knowledge of literary periods, literary movements, genres, theory and criticism
    2. Textual analysis and interpretation
    3. Writing skills
    4. Research skills

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Dr. Celena Kusch
Department Chair

USC Upstate
Department of Languages, Literature & Composition
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800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303
Phone: 864-503-5688
Fax: 864-503-5825
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